Safe Sex, Health, Respect, and Talking to Your ChildJanuary 28, 2013 • By Kelly Sanders, MFT, Child and Adolescent Issues Topic Expert Contributor
I watch Lifetime movies. Yes, I help people get their lives back on the “straight and narrow” and be healthier with themselves, their emotions, and their relationships, but I still like to indulge Lifetime movies. That feels good to write!
The Pregnancy Pact is about girls who become pregnant. The issue makes the news, and a reporter tries to not just get the story but to also increase awareness about teen pregnancy. I recommend checking out Lifetime for the rest of the story.
The issue that I want to present today is parents’ responsibility to speak with their children about safe sex—abstinence, using condoms (if they do decide to have sex), and sexual health—and not just leave it to the schools.
It can be a scary thing to talk to your children about sex, but the reality is that they are going to ask because they are curious about their bodies and what they see on television. They don’t want to know that they shouldn’t have sex; they want to know why they should not have sex at a particular age. As a parent, it is part of your job to teach your kids about sexual health. I believe you get the picture.
There is a lot to think about, and no parent is ever truly “ready” to talk with a child about the “birds and the bees,” but again, it’s a necessity—and your child may, in fact, ask you. Of course, they will go to their friends, but they’ll come away with a lot of misinformation. You will give them the facts and help them make a healthy, well-informed decision. Yes, the child may still go out and have sex, but when he or she is informed with the pros/cons, the facts, etc., he or she can make a wiser choice.
When to Start
It’s best to start at a young age. My son will be 2 years old next month. At bath time, I show him how to clean himself, and he does a pretty good job. The other day, we had a conversation about him and Daddy having a penis, but not Mommy. That was it. I also said that only Mommy, Daddy, and a doctor would be able to see it, if needed. In the bath, we talk briefly about making sure our bodies are clean head to toe, and that’s one way to take care of our bodies.
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If your child is older, it might be good to ask what he or she knows about taking care of his or her body. This is part of sexual health, self-respect, and beginning to set healthy boundaries. Our bodies are important, and we need to keep them as healthy as possible.
What to Share
If the child is older, ask what he or she knows first, or what kids are talking about at school. Ask if peers are talking about who’s having sex, if there’s pressure, etc. This will help in pointing you in the best direction to help your child. Of course, if your child is in a sex-education class, and you have waited that long, use it to open up the discussion.
Be calm. Listen to what your child is saying. Observe how he/she is responding to your questions, the looks on his or her face. You need to know what he or she knows and what you will need to correct it, if the information is wrong. Try to limit your responses so that your child does not give you the glazed look on his or her face when you have said way too much or he or she is not interested anymore.
Share Your Beliefs
I grew up in church and was raised to not have sex before marriage. I grew up knowing what the Bible says about premarital sex, what my parents expected of me, and these things helped me develop my beliefs and standards about who I give my body to (or not). It also taught me to keep my kisses for people who are going to respect me and not just what I can give them.
That is definitely an important aspect of sexual health: teaching your child that his or her virginity is important, and whom they choose to have sex with may either take it or nurture it. Kids need to know that when they have sex, they need to make sure that the person receiving their virginity will protect it, respect it, and not take advantage of it.
I am not trying to stand on a soap box or anything like that, but the reality is that kids are having sex—a lot more than statistics will probably show, and sex is not to be used for random wants. Oral sex is often not perceived as “sex,” but it still involves the giving of oneself. There are feelings involved, even with a one-night stand. Whether you go to church or not, you have your own morality about sex, and all parents want their children to make healthier decisions than they did.
How Each Parent Can Help
- Dads: You can help demonstrate to your sons and daughters about how a girl/woman should be treated. You can share how you would like your daughter to be treated by how you treat your wife. Again, not on a soap box, but our children learn from us—verbal communication and nonverbal. You can share with your daughter the lines that boys may say to get into her pants: “If you love me …” “I love you.” “We can go slow.” And so on. You can also help your daughter to be confident in herself; treat her with respect. Tell her how much she means to you, and what type of guy you would like her to find. You can also help your boys to show respect to women—more than just opening doors for them, but demonstrating respect in speaking to them, etc. You are as valuable as your spouse, and you can give insight regarding men because you are one!
- Moms: You can help demonstrate to your sons and daughters how to treat a man. You can share with your sons what girls are like, how they can be, what type of girl they should be with, how to help with communication, how self-respect is important, and how to set healthy personal boundaries.
There are many more points that can be discussed on this particular topic. I wanted to highlight that it is the parents’ job to help teach children about sexual health, potential diseases, and all that encompasses choosing to have sex. Sex-education classes alone may not be enough.
As a parent, you are very important in your child’s life, even if he or she is not going to admit that. Keep the discussion about sex open with your child. Keep listening. Give the facts. Be there.
© Copyright 2013 by Kelly Sanders, MFT, therapist in Rancho Cucamonga, California. All Rights Reserved.
Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org. The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. The view and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.
andrewJanuary 28th, 2013 at 10:15 PM
how I wish my parents were more forthcoming on this topic. they were the kind of parents who acted like sex didn’t exist. sex in fact was a dirty word. my siblings and I got all our information on sex from external sources in the absence of sex education in the place we studied. thankfully we didn’t mess things up for ourselves with regard to sex but it would have been so much better to have parents like that. and opening up with that topic could have even helped us bond and get to know each other better than we do now.
that is one thing I’m definitely going to do different with my own children. a healthy discussion on any topic is not a bad thing. in fact it can prevent many a bad situations for your children.
DylanJanuary 29th, 2013 at 3:53 AM
So hard to have these talks sometimes
but oh so important
I don’t want my kids having to learn about sex in the middle school bathroom
I want them to be prepared with the right information, the correct information, no matter how uncomfortable it is for all of us to talk about it
IsabelleJanuary 29th, 2013 at 11:06 AM
Here’s the thing. I really want to talk to my daughter about sex. But, she’s never asked me about it-ever. When I ask her if she has any questions or wants to talk about, she’s like a little clam. What do I do to help her know it’s okay (and a good thing) to talk to me? I have told her that her friends don’t know any more than she does and that I’ll always tell her the truth, but it’s still a no-go.
JakeJanuary 29th, 2013 at 11:09 AM
I really like the comment on what to tell your child about his or her virginity. It is extremely important that virginity be valued as I think it reflects on how much you value yourself as a person.
Peg GrundelJanuary 29th, 2013 at 11:17 AM
It always seemed like sex was a big talk you had with your kids before high school. But, really, you do have to start talking with your kids about sex long before that otherwise their will be this weird awkwardness between u and your kids. I made that mistake. with my first one.
But buy the time i had #2 I had learned a lot and now we talk about it a lot. More than I really want to!
KYDJanuary 29th, 2013 at 11:23 AM
Dylan, you’ll be lucky if your kids don’t hear about sex until middle school. Be ready for it in 4th!
GracieJanuary 29th, 2013 at 11:24 AM
For most teens a lot of what they believe about sex has to do with what they see in regards to this in the home. How does mom treat dad? Is there a dad around and if so how does he treat mom? What kinds of things do they say to the kids about self esteem and regarding yourself as something not to be trampled on sexually? It’s a big job but parents have to be able to see that their own behaviors and beliefs very heavily influence their children’s beliefs and behavior. Be careful what you say and do in front of them, be careful that this is the kind of behavior that you want to see in them. And talk to them openly and honestly about what a healthy relationship looks like and how sex can be a great part of this but only when you are both physically and mentally ready to deal with it.
BellaJanuary 29th, 2013 at 3:09 PM
Isabelle – you’ve got to initiate! Rather than asking if she has any question why not sit down and have a talk with you asking a few questions and explaining about anything that she may then enquire about? That way you do most of the talking, giving her advice and everything, and also get her to open up to you about anything she may have in her mind.
I know it’s not easy as a parent but we’ve got to start somewhere. All the best!
ShannonJanuary 29th, 2013 at 5:04 PM
Just so imp to talk about this with your children. Far better to face a little discomfort talking than to have them get half baked and maybe even completely false ‘facts’ from other sources. Kids today are growing up faster than we can imagine. They have exposure to media and mainly the Internet so it’s better to talk yourself than to wait for them to find things through other sources, sources you can never be sure about!
ALEXJanuary 30th, 2013 at 6:05 AM
I personally know a few couples that do not want to talk or discuss anything about sex with their children. They think it is awkward and not a topic of discussion between parents and children. Of course the school sex ed program will take care of that. Right? Wrong!
It is important to not just talk to them about sex but also to be Aware of what’s happening in your child’s life. A confusion or answered questions on the topic can lead them into believing false things from others. That can be a trigger for dangerous behavior including but not limited to unsafe sex practices. That can then be the starting point of a road that is fraught with danger and trouble not just for the children but also for you as parents. So buckle up and talk about sex, it’s more of an opportunity than some awkward thing to talk about!
lisabetJanuary 31st, 2013 at 3:12 PM
I know many parents who have made the mistake of thinking that their children will come to them with questions when they are ready to talk about sex, but honestly by the time most of them even think to come to the parents they are already so filled with bad and misinformation that it is hard to make a dent in what they already think. I have always tried to be honest with my kids and to keep an open dialogue with them even when they said they didn’t want to talk. I find that them being in a closed car with you driving down the road is a fabulous time to talk, even if they don’t and try to tune you out hopefully a little of what you have to say will sink in! Just keep the conversation going because once they stop talking it is so hard to get them back again.
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